Beethoven

Dimmed light of the music studio, I sat listening to my 9 year old play a halted Fur Elise, her first time through – blond braids moving to the rhythm. The teacher asked her if she had heard the story of the man who wrote the song.  She shook her head no and continued to play – mighty hard for her to stop once she gets started.  And while she played the tune over and over he told the story of a little boy who played the piano.  About the way his dad must have been proud of his abilities as he was bound and determined to make a child prodigy of him – the next Mozart.  So determined he was that while the boy played, his dad would rage and beat the boy, slamming the lid of the piano down on little hands if a note was missed, showing no expression at all when he played it correctly, always wanting more and still more out of him.  He would drive the boy to practice long hours, and often middle of the night, coming home from the Alehouse would pull his young son from deep sleep out of bed, hit him in the head to awaken him, to play for his intoxicated friends.  I hadn’t heard this story before, but remembered reading about Beethoven years before – I’d hang over side of my bed, book on carpet below, I’d read out of green and white Children’s Encyclopedia.  The story of the wild hair, wild eyed man Beethoven, completely deaf, who could hear music in his mind, all of it.. all parts, how he’d write beautiful and complicated works even though unable to hear a thing.    

Mary played awhile, and I wondered about deafness and beatings.  About drunkenness and lack of sleep and rage and rich complicated powerful music.  And in my wonderings, scribbled out a song back of envelope… a song that starts with Fur Elise and ends with a phrase of Fur Elise. 

Beethoven

Another Mozart

Another beating

Hours at music and the iron fist

Tormented spirit, all walled up in deafness

Bled through the layers and layers of silence

Song found it’s way…

.. into the world

 

Dance in the thunder

And so beautiful

Let the score say what you never could

Flower of yellow

Burst’n up through sidewalk

In a concrete world

You shine anyway….

Another Mozart

Another beating

Hours at music and the iron fist

Tormented spirit, all walled up in deafness

Bled through the layers and layers of silence

Song found it’s way..

… into the world

By Lisa Boyl-Davis August 11, 2018

Beethoven could have loathed music for the way his dad tortured him. The harm done left scars that ran the gamut of his being, and still somehow the harm was unable to rob Ludwig of his run to music, of the creations in his mind – was unable to stifle love for God. 

There is so much more to his story. 

About the way he adored his mother, and lost her too soon.

About the way one sibling, then another and another passed on.

About the way each girl he fell in love with refused to marry him, for although most of his life was spent mingling with the wealthy, he himself was not, and therefore took for music, but not as a husband. 

About the way he suffered mental illness. 

About suicidal wishes. 

About his rage. 

About the mistakes he made. 

About the squalor he lived in. 

I could go on… and really the more I know of his life, the more I am in awe of the human spirit.  The way a dance in the thunder can make Beautiful.  The way flowers burst through concrete and shine anyway.  I think of all the survivors of abuse I have encountered.  Much like Beethoven.  Messy, complicated.  And contributors to some of the richest rarest forms of beauty I have encountered. 

Somehow, song finds its way into the world. 

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Flipflop Blues

I’ve never experimented with writing children’s songs.  Here’s my first attempt.  The tune was written by Danny Rash, and arranged by Ted Lombard.  It has the sound of hurried feet headed out the door – off to go fishing:)

 

7 dusty flipflops go’n fish’n

7 tired flipflops headed home

7 lazy flipflops on the back porch

Where to find the other one?

Look’n under

Look’n over

Hunt’n clover

Where’s that shoe?

Look’n under

Look’n over

What’s a lonely foot to do?

7 muddy flipflops in the bathtub

7 shiney flipflops in the sun

7 flipflops ready for adventure

Where to find the other one?

Look’n under

Look’n over

Hunt’n clover

Where’s that shoe?

Look’n under

Look’n over

What’s a lonely foot to do?

Someone sing’n flipflop blues….

Oh ya:)

 

Song Written By Danny Rash

Lyrics By Lisa Boyl-Davis

Arranged by Ted Lombard

 

Canadian Geese and Ella Fitzgerald

Under the autumn sky, around the lake another time I walk.  Brisk air tossing my hair about, and I catch sight of them.  Grey and grand, they are silent above me.  Determined necks, strong wings in the bluster, they move onward.  Moving together toward a destination – built in the bones.  Just being geese, they pursue what has been etched into their beings, and they live.

For two weeks now, I’ve been working hard on “Green Dolphin Street”, “Take The A Train” and a couple other songs best sung by Ella Fitzgerald.  Geese in the currents overhead, I think about her.  Baby Ella born to a laundry girl and the shipyard boyfriend – the gene donor didn’t stay long.  She said once in an interview “… I never met him.”.  Moving from Newport News, Virginia to New York, Ella, her Momma and the current boyfriend settled in.  Life seems to have gone well for the family; a sister born, attending both school and church. 

Then things got hard.  An auto accident took the life of Ella’s mother.  Just after she died, her boyfriend treated Ella wrong.  Ella was a young teen.  Time passed.  An auntie finally came for Ella, moved her in with her family, but it was too late, Ella’s life had already begun the backward slide.  Failing grades, she skipped school and roamed about in the shadows of New York, dancing the streets of Harlem for a penny.  Ella was caught for truancy and placed in a reform school.  The reformatory was a horrible place.  The girls there were beat by male guards.   When she couldn’t take it anymore, she found a way to run. For some time she lived homeless on the streets of New York.  No year is better for living on the streets than another, except maybe for the years during The Depression – when she was homeless.  She survived somehow, did all kinds of odd jobs… slept wherever she could. 

One night she decided to participate at an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.  Ella loved to dance, but when she saw the Edwards Sisters dance their socks off just before she was to go on, she changed her mind and decided to sing.  The crowd wasn’t pleased at the sight of her.  She looked homeless and unkempt, because she was.  But when she started to sing, the audience went silent.  A well known drummer in the audience realized this girl had something, and whisk her away to talk to the powers that be.  The answer was no.  They wanted a man, not a woman.  What they were really saying was that she looked like heck, and would not have her.  Well she was given another chance, she cleaned up, sang, and the rest is history.  Ella provided the world with music from age 17 to age 79.  Sold 40 million albums and won 13 grammy awards. 

Ella, a black homeless girl during the depression, on the streets of New York City, chewed up and spit out by life.  Orphaned, molested, a school dropout, thrown in juvie, a runaway, homeless.  When she was given a chance, it wasn’t for the amazing body beneath tattered misfit hand-me-down’s and dirt.  Wasn’t discovered for a startlingly unusual voice, though lovely.  Wasn’t chosen for her ability to charm musicians into choosing her.  She was too plain, too shy, and socially awkward at times.  Like the Geese that fly, no matter the weather, driven to be, she was herself – herself was just what the world needed. 

Circumstances can’t remove a core blueprint.  I wonder how she kept mind lies from stripping from us six decades of herself?  What prevented her from believing lies in her head that whispered she’s a nobody, that she’s got no business singing for people at an amature hour.  A brave moment.  A strong moment.  A moment of taking to the skies, doing what she was made for, just being.  She let her unique internal grid be her true north. 

At times, over the years, dark thoughts did tormented her.  There were times she felt like nothing, wanting to hide because of her failed marriages, and her body size.  A person who gives the best of themselves is not the person who has no dark thoughts.  It’s is the person who doesn’t let the dark thoughts stop movement forward.  She continued to put herself out there despite the struggles. 

Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote just after Ella’s death “Here was a black woman popularizing urban songs often written by immigrant Jews to a national audience of predominantly white Christians.”  Some things have changed in our world since that day.  Some things have stayed the same.  There are still homeless overlooked, rarely given a chance to be.  Children are still being orphaned, beat, molested.  Some still treat others as beneath themselves.  At the same time, society has attempted to make laws and movies and music, poems and books for teaching us to accept others different from ourselves.  Ella didn’t set out to change the world.  She set out to be, despite what she lacked.  Every time a person does that, the world changes

Ella, lately you come with me when I walk under autumn skies.  I watch the Canadian Geese above me.  Your songs, they soak into my bones.  I think about the beauty of each human being.  

… the baby born to a young mother and boyfriend

…the little one raised by a step-dad

… the child living in poverty

… the orphaned child

… the molested child

… the child running the streets

… the child harmed by the system

..each one with an internal grid

for giving this sorry world something wonderful

– built into the bones, just being.  

 

And I think of Ella.